Remember the story about the goose that laid the golden eggs? Now a team of researchers from the University of Michigan has discovered bacteria that can do the same - and not just any golden eggs, but tiny nuggets of the purest form of the precious metal.
The geniuses behind this magical experiment are microbiologist Kazem Kashefi and electronic artist Adam Brown. They began with a metal-tolerant bacteria called Cupriavidus metalliduran and fed it liquid gold (III) chloride. Found in traces in the ocean, this metallic compound is highly toxic and capable of killing most living organisms especially, if exposed to it at highly concentrated levels.
However, not the Cupriavidus metalliduran. They seemed to just love it and devoured about 25 times more than any other bacteria had ever done before. After eating all that toxic liquid, they not only survived but also, metabolized it and pooped out little nuggets of solid gold!
The scientists who believe their experiment mimics what happens in nature did not reveal why they picked this particular bacteria or the reason they decided to conduct this cool experiment. They merely describe it as neo-alchemy, where 'every part, every detail of the project is a cross between modern microbiology and alchemy.'
However, before you get all excited, this is not a cost-effective way of mass-producing gold, because it takes too long and the poop particles are quite tiny. Also, while the toxic liquid can be found naturally in our oceans, the amount is minuscule. Of course, it could also be manufactured in laboratories, but given that one of the raw materials it requires is gold, that kind of defeats the purpose! That is probably why, instead of keeping it a secret, the scientists have turned their fun experiment into a living art exhibit.
'The Great Work of the Metal Lover' that was showcased in Linz, Austria until October 7th, 2012 was a portable laboratory that featured a 'bioreactor' wherein a clump of the bacteria were given vast amounts of gold(111) chloride. Though it took a week, the audience was actually able to witness the pooping of the golden nuggets. For those of us that could not make it to Austria to see the extraordinary transformation, here is a video.